Rapa Nui Moai at the British Museum – London


There were so many tiki bars in London, and alas not enough time for us to visit them all. We did have to fit in some legitimate sightseeing here and there! Coincidentally, the British Museum happens to have some South Pacific artifacts along with the very impressive Egyptian collection, Parthenon frieze and Rosetta Stone.


Their Rapa Nui Moai (Easter Island statue) is quite a sight. This handsome fellow is named Hoa Hakananai’a (roughly translated as “Stolen or hidden friend”) and is dated around 1400. About a thousand moai were made on Rapa Nui, but apparently this is only one of 16 that was carved from basalt.


What’s really compelling about this one though are the unexpected carvings on the back, which are Birdman symbols that were added after the moai was moved to ‘Orongo. It was brought to England in 1869 by the HMS Topaze, and Queen Victoria gifted it to the museum (presumably because it clashed with the Buckingham Palace curtains).


It’s part of the “Living and Dying” permanent exhibition that’s been in the Wellcome Trust Gallery since 2003. There are also objects from Africa, North and South America, the Solomon Islands and New Zealand, like this carved wooden post from the 1830s-1850s. If you look closely you can see the rauponga pattern—the notched “V”s are supposed to resemble the namesake fern frond.


I was also intrigued by this housepost (circa 1900-1950 from the Sepik River region in Papua New Guinea) with its long face and mysterious animal. (Crocodile? Platypus?)


The British Museum also has a Hawaiian Ku (see info on Critiki) in their Oceania collection but from what I can tell it doesn’t seem to be on display at the moment. (Last summer it was sent to the Bishop Museum in Hawaii for a special reunion exhibition.)


Caliente Tropics – Palm Springs, CA

Over the decades, America’s fascination with Polynesia has inspired tiki bars, tiki apartments, tiki mini-golf, a tiki drive-in, tiki liquor store, tiki tattoo shop and, as you’ll see, tiki motels. (In fact, there’s even whole chapters dedicated to them in The Book of Tiki and Tiki Road Trip.)

Caliente Tropics, originally called The Tropics, opened in Palm Springs in the heyday of tiki in 1964 and was part of Ken Kimes’ motel empire. Included were five tiki-themed motels in California—Indio (Coachella-land), Blythe, Modesto and Rosemead were the other locations. The Oceanic Arts tikis in the parking lot are definitely worth a look.

The resort has had a tumultuous history, going from being a rundown place of somewhat ill repute to hosting the inaugural Tiki Oasis event. Unfortunately, changes in ownership/management have kept it in a state of flux.

The lobby is covered with bamboo, lauhala matting and thatch, plus there’s a few tikis (like this foam Ku carved by Marcus Pizutti), chunky swag lamps and a rock waterfall fountain in the corner.

This Easter Island tiki plaque by Bosko was part of the property’s extensive renovations from about a decade ago.

I liked these little thatched A-frame huts for two out on the lawn. Looks like the perfect place to lounge in some very valuable shade and escape the desert sun for a bit.

Adjacent to that area is the pool. Behind it, the signage is still up for the Reef bar, which opened in 2003, was renamed Hawaiian Bill’s a couple years later, then closed in 2009. (Editor’s Note: The Reef has been reborn, thanks to Rory Snyder — founder of Tiki Caliente and Mod Palm Springs events. This “tropical-themed libation sanctuary” opened in 2017.)

We didn’t stay there, so I can’t speak to the quality of the rooms…

Caliente Tropics Resort
411 E. Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92264

No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo – Philadelphia, PA

Mr. Baseball and I were in Philadelphia a few months ago, and found that the City of Brotherly Love has little love for tiki. But there is at least one notable exception: the No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo Parlor.

We couldn’t leave Philly without trying some cheese steaks, and the No Ka Oi just happened to be about a mile from the most famous wiz wit purveyors, Geno’s and Pat’s, so we made a quick pit stop.

This detour unwittingly took us into the middle of South Street, a Venice Beach-like stretch in the Center City neighborhood with lots of neat storefronts like the one for No Ka Oi. (Fun fact: It means “the best” in Hawaiian.)

I didn’t get inked or anything, just popped in for a moment to snap a few pics, like of this tiki dude hanging out under the front counter.

No Ka Oi Tiki Tattoo
610 S. 4th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147